Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Rant Review: Masters of the Universe Classics Serpentine King Hiss figure

It's October, which means it's my favorite time of the year: the Halloween season! (It begins for me in the second half of August, but everyone else is on board by now!) Since I sadly don't have the time to do the daily Halloween-themed posts I've done in years past, each figure review this month will focus on monster-type figures. (Even though real life crap made me miss last week, d'oh! There will be a bonus review sometime this month to make up for that.) Anyway, off we go with King Hiss!

As one of the main faction leaders in the MOTU universe, it was inevitable that King Hiss (or Hssss, as Mattel spells it these days) would receive a couple of refreshes in the MOTUC line. However, unlike Skeletor, He-Man, and Hordak, Hiss only had one figure produced in the vintage line. So, for awhile, there was much speculation about exactly what new versions of the character in figure form would entail. As it turned out, this version of the character was produced because the original MOTUC Hiss was rather sub-par.

Oh, the original MOTUC King Hiss was sculpted well, of course. With the Four Horsemen at the helm, that was always a given. His human "disguise" was a perfectly executed update of the original. However, despite his snake form no longer having to fit inside the humanoid shell, as the vintage version did, the snake form was still based on how the vintage version looked. It had the same stubby proportions, and an overall unimpressive look. Certainly not the nightmarish creature King Hiss was supposed to be! Enter Serpentine King Hiss. Originally just a new torso that would attach to the original King Hiss waist, it wound up becoming an entire new figure. With the 4H cutting loose on an all-new, unleashed snake form, and some clever reuse of the legs from Rattlor, we got a totally badass update to the King of the Snake Men.

This new sculpt is evocative of Earl Norem's rendition of Hiss, as seen in this poster from the MOTU magazine. The 4H went all out with this sculpt, packing in the detail. Each scale is lovingly sculpted, and even the interior of each serpent's mouth is detailed. The serpent heads have a couple of different poses and sizes, giving them some sense of individuality. One small issue is that the lower jaw on the main snake head is a separate piece, so there is a very obvious seam. It blends in well on the sides of the head, but it's impossible to miss from the front. It hurts the look of the figure a bit, but given the realities of production, I'm not really sure how else this could have been done. It's not a huge problem, but it is something worth noting. The legs, as mentioned, were  previously seen with Rattlor and one of the snake men army builders. This breaks with the norm, as the disguised humanoid legs were always used previously, but I'm very glad the 4H broke with tradition here. Not only does it further differentiate this from the previous MOTUC Hiss, it simply makes more sense. It always looked odd to have those normal green human legs remain the same, while the top was an eruption of serpents. This fully transformed version of Hiss looks very intimidating indeed!

Articulation is the MOTUC standard from the waist down. The main serpent head has a cut neck, and the six long snake limbs are bendy. Some collectors seem to really dislike bendy limbs, and I don't exactly love them myself, but it really seems to be the best option here. The one big drawback here is that the jaw on the main head should be articulated. It's already a separate piece, so it should have been connected on a hinge, rather than simply glued into place. The tongue could be removable, so we'd have more options for displaying our snaked-out King Hiss. As far as accessories go, Hiss is pretty loaded. He has a very cool mid-transformation head, designed to work with the original MOTUC Hiss figure, but it will snap right on to most figures in the line if you so desire. He also has an arsenal of weapons, all previously seen with the snake men army builder two-pack. He has a spear, a sword, a shield, and a particularly nasty-looking mace. He can't actually hold any of them-- not in any sort of convincing way, at least-- but these can be used to outfit other figures in your collection. There's a general snake motif on all of them, but it's subtle enough on all but the shield that these weapons will work with figures from any faction.

While there was much rancor over Serpentine King Hiss becoming a full figure, rather than simply the torso as a subscriber bonus, as originally promised, I do feel this made for a much better figure in the end. (There is definitely some validity in the dissatisfaction over Mattel breaking yet another promise to its customers, though.) Making it a full figure enables it to stand on its own, rather than limiting its usefulness to those who had already bought the original figure years earlier. It's a shame that it took two tries for King Hiss to be done properly, but I can't hold that against this figure. It's simply awesome, and as one of the main faction leaders, this is a must-have for MOTUC collectors.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Rant Review: Masters of the Universe Classics Battle Ram with Man-at-Arms figure

As one of the first MOTU vehicles ever released, the Battle Ram was high on wishlists for inclusion in the MOTUC line. When sculptors the Four Horsemen showed up with a fully-sculpted figure-scaled Battle Ram, which they had made completely on their own time, at at SDCC in 2010, the reaction from everyone was ecstatic. With the expansion of the line following its success in the previous year, it actually seemed possible that we might get it, despite Mattel regularly claiming we would not. It wound up taking quite a while. Several years later, Mattel released just the front sky sled portion. It was cool, but also a merciless tease to those of us who still craved the entire vehicle. Finally, in 2014, the entire vehicle was finally released, with a Man-at-Arms variant figure that was also heavily fan-requested bundled with it.

Simply put, the Battle Ram is a marvel. It's not quite as big as the Talon Fighter-- incidentally, my other favorite vehicle from the vintage MOTU line-- but it's still quite large. Like other vehicles in the MOTUC line, it restores many details that were present on the original vintage prototype, but were cut from the released version. (An excellent breakdown at some of those changes in the vintage toy can be found here.) All details of the stickers on the vintage toy are sculpted here. The painting/tampo work here is mostly good, and there's a dark wash over the vehicle to help bring out the sculpted detail. There are also some nice metallic blue highlights on certain parts. The wheels roll well, and the missile, while a little on the soft side, works well. It doesn't fire as far as its vintage counterpart, but considering how hard that thing hit, that's probably a good thing.

There is one thing about the sculpt that could be considered a negative, depending on your point of view. Instead of the griffin head sculpted on the vintage toy, this version of the Battle Ram has a snake head, reminiscent of the sky sleds Skeletor's evil warriors used in the Filmation cartoon. Since the griffin head version of the sky sled had already been released, Mattel decided to use the snake head version for this release, enabling people to choose which version they wanted attached to the main part of the vehicle. This is a good idea in theory, but the problem is that it forces people to buy two pricey toys to assemble a MOTUC version of the vintage vehicle. Now that the stand-alone sky sled is long out of production and commands a high price on the secondary market, it's even tougher. I quite like the Battle Ram as it is, but I admit that I'm a little disappointed that I'll have to shell out a good bit more money to get a true MOTUC version of the vintage toy. If you're lucky enough to have the stand-alone sky sled, though, you're all set.

The included Man-at-Arms figure is kind of a mutt. He has a 2002 cartoon-inspired head, and the symmetrical armor of the Filmation version. He's basically a parts horse designed for use with various pieces of Man-at-Arms figures you already own to assemble your own ideal version(s). That said, the figure is pretty cool all on its own, if you choose to leave him as is. If you already have the original MOTUC Man-at-Arms figure, this one is pretty much the same, with a few key differences. Obviously, there's the new head. The sculpt is a very good representation of the 2002 cartoon version of the character, with a suitably determined expression. Some of the paint apps are also different, but not hugely so. The armor is softer, which means the clips on the back don't do nearly as good a job at holding the weapons. The figure is completely different below the knees. Aping the Filmation look, Mattel opted to use the Skeletor boot tops, with plain booted feet. While this does look closer to the character's Filmation appearance, it's completely incongruous with the rest of the figure, and it just looks odd. The figure would have been better served if Mattel had just included two sets of the normal Man-at-Arms leg armor instead. One other thing to note is that the armor just does not want to stay in place on the right arm. Even in a couple of these photos, pieces of it have clearly slid down or around. I just got sick of having to adjust it constantly. (This may not be a widespread issue, though.) As a pack-in with a vehicle, it's unsurprising that Man-at-Arms doesn't include the arsenal the stand-alone release did, but it's pretty close! He has his trademark mace, a silver Grayskull weapons rack mace, and a laser pistol, all of which can (sort of) be stored on his back. (Note that the silver mace is not pictured, as Teela is currently sitting in the Talon Fighter holding it, and I didn't remember until after I was done with all the photos.)

All things considered, the Battle Ram is an extremely impressive toy, particularly for a modern adult collector-focused line, which typically don't even get any vehicles. Its size, meticulous detail, and the fact that you can comfortably fit three figures on this thing with no problem, just like the vintage one, make it essential for any MOTU collector who has the space for it. (And you can totally get more then three figures on it if you want! It'll just get a little crowded.) I scored mine for $42 through the closeout sale Mattel has on their remaining MOTU stock. They seem to have all disappeared, but keep an eye on their Walmart and Ebay stores. You never know, they may reappear! In the meantime, keep scrolling down for more photos!

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Rant Review: Masters of the Universe Classics Goat Man figure

Fandom is a funny thing. No matter what franchise you look at, be it a movie, TV series, comic book, toyline, or, in this case, all of the above, people will become fascinated with some of the most random and obscure characters. Case in point: Goat Man. This character appeared for a few pages in a single MOTU storybook (featuring art by the late, great Eduardo Barreto) in the '80s, and honestly, he didn't do much of anything. Yet, for whatever reason, people have been clamoring for a Goat Man figure for years. He wasn't as fan-demanded in the MOTUC line as even the C-listers who had figures in the vintage line, of course, but there were enough people who wanted a Goat Man figure that he maintained a perpetual presence on "most wanted" lists. I certainly wanted a toy of him when I was a kid. His appearance was in one of the few MOTU Golden Books I owned, and he just popped up as if he had always been a part of this world. I assumed he also appeared in other books, or even cartoon episodes, that I'd missed, and figured we get a Goat Man toy at some point. Sadly, in the original MOTU line, it was not to be. I liked him enough that I even customized a Goat Man figure for the 2002 MOTU toyline.

Now that we finally do have a Goat Man figure, another hole in the line has been filled. This is yet another figure that shows how well the MOTUC buck system works, as the Four Horsemen have created a very cool and book-accurate figure with only a few new parts. Mattel could have cheaped out and used the standard bracers, and frankly, it would have worked fine, but it's nice to see them include new ones to make the figure as accurate as possible. The black straps have a nice leathery texture sculpted into them, and the head sculpt has a lot of character. It's one of those sculpts that can seem to have a completely different expression if you view it from different angles, and those are always nice to get. Goat Man can look pissed off, dismayed, or completely befuddled depending on how you look at him.

Articulation is standard, though the figure has the "fat armor" issue that became depressingly common in many figures, so, like Ralphie's little brother,  he can't put his arms all the way down. The armor doesn't inhibit the abdominal hinge much, though, which is nice. The ankles on my Goat Man are very loose, which makes it difficult for him to hold certain poses. Paint apps are pretty basic, but they're neat, especially where they matter most, on the eyes and teeth.

Goat Man includes two accessories, though only one of them is intended for him. He has a huge badass hammer, which has a cool sculpt and a nice paint wash over it. The other accessory is the long-awaited Staff of Avion, so Stratos finally has something to hold. If he could hold anything, that is. Thankfully, the 4H sculpted a bracket around the handle, so that it can fit around either of Chinstrap's open hands.

Goat Man is about as far from essential as you can get when it comes to MOTU characters, and that's largely why I love this figure as much as I do. After several false starts, and years of canned "Stay Tuned!" responses that never seemed to lead anywhere, the fact that we finally have a MOTU toyline that is so expansive fills me with glee. Mattel and the 4H took an obscure, single-appearance character and knocked him out of the park with this figure. Many, perhaps most, MOTU fans won't consider him a "must have" figure, but if you like the oddballs, as I do, you'll wanna grab him for your collection.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Rant Review: Masters of the Universe Classics Procrustus figure

I know I say this sort of thing a lot in these reviews, but when the Masters of the Universe Classics line kicked off in late 2008, Procrustus was the type of figure nobody expected to get. Due to retailers' total disinterest in carrying MOTU toys(which was understandable, considering Mattel's colossal bungling of the then-recent 2002 line), the adult collector-focused, online exclusive toyline was seen as something of a desperation move, and getting the main few dozen characters as new figures was the best most of us hoped for. Obscure characters who only appeared in a couple of pages of a single minicomic, much less a giant, seemed like a pipe dream.

And yet, here Procrustus stands. I remember being very, very young and looking at him in the early minicomic The Magic Stealer, and wanting a toy of him so damn bad! Like the Goddess, he was one of those early comic characters I was drawn to, and who never received his due in plastic until decades later. While he's not as huge as depicted in the minicomic-- a six-foot-tall toy would be rather cost prohibitive, particularly in this line-- he's quite large, and his extra arms give him even more bulk than the other giants, Tytus and Megator. Procrustus was released during the period during which I was unable to buy any MOTUC stuff, and I purposely avoided looking at photos of him, since it would only be torturing myself. Given this line's heavy reuse, and Mattel's general chintziness, I figured he would probably be mostly reused parts from Tytus, with a few key parts newly tooled to set him apart. Basically, the bare-ass minimum, which is often all Mattel is willing to deliver. (Do note that when I rant about how cheap and often incompetent Mattel is, I'm not talking about the teams that work on the individual lines. There are some very passionate and talented people working on Mattel's various lines, and the fault for such decisions very rarely lies with any of them. It's the higher-ups who make some key decisions who often undermine what the people who actually work on these toylines try so hard to accomplish.)

Thankfully, this is not the case. Procrustus is composed almost entirely of newly tooled parts, and he is all the better for it. His sculpt is typical of the excellence we have come to expect from the Four Horsemen, with lots of detail in his craggy skin. Even his hair and loincloth have that rocklike texture. This makes for a figure that is very visually interesting. The exceptions are two of his hands and his legs. These are reused from Megator, and the smooth appearance of the legs is completely incongruous with the rest of the figure. Given how many new parts Procrustus has, I can live with the reuse here, but it does harm the figure's overall appearance a bit.

Procrustus is cast in a tannish/peachy sort of color that is pretty close to his comic appearance, with a very nice paint wash to bring out the sculpted detail. This paint wash also helps blend the smooth legs in with the rest of the sculpt a bit. His eyes are white, with a touch of eyeliner for the stylish flair you'd expect from an immortal giant who spends his time holding the entire planet together. Articulation is not up to the normal standard for this line due to the additional cost that would incur. (Though I do find Mattel's claim that a fully-articulated figure in this scale would have to cost $100 pure bullshit. Other toy companies have figured it out, even on limited-run items, so they should be able to do the same.) Procrustus does fare better than his predecessors, thankfully, especially Tytus. His shoulders are not ball joints, despite appearing to be. Each attaches to a peg mounted in his torso, and moves as a swivel. He also has swivels at the biceps, wrists, hips, and waist, joints at the elbows and knees, and a ball-jointed head. His hair and loincloth are very stiff, however, and severely limit the range of motion. You can get him into some cool poses, but he is extremely limited from the waist down. (Something no man likes to admit!) Some of his hands are sculpted to hold weapons, but he doesn't include any. His lone accessory is the Star Seed, an immensely powerful magical artifact. I always like getting lore-friendly items like this, so it's a cool bonus with the figure.

I waited more than three decades to get this figure, so he needed to be pretty damn awesome. While I would really like him to have more articulation, and the reused smooth legs are a shame, Procrustus is still a very cool figure. I still can hardly believe this figure even exists, much less that I have one on my shelf! His height and bulk give him a very impressive presence, and he is essential for anyone who loves the pre-Filmation era of MOTU. Now we just need an Attak Trak in the MOTUC line so we can re-enact that scene from the minicomic! ;)

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Rant Review: Masters of the Universe Classics Battleground Teela figure

We've got more pre-Filmation Masters of the Universe goodness today, with Battleground Teela! This was one of those character variants I figured wasn't too likely to be produced as a figure early on in the MOTUC line's life. Though she had blonde hair in multiple appearances in the early years, Teela only appeared in this outfit in a single early DC-produced comic. Honestly, simply reissuing the standard Teela figure with repainted hair seemed much more Mattel's speed than putting forth the effort to create a figure that's different enough that it could serve as another character altogether. (Really, given their preference for doing that in the MOTUC line, I'm rather surprised they didn't give this figure a different name!) Anyway, we did get the figure, and damn, is she ever cool!

The sculpt is typically great work from the Four Horsemen. There are only a few new pieces here, but they're the ones the figure really needed to warrant being sold as a new figure. The most notable new piece is the head. Despite creating generally excellent work, the 4H have had some issues with female head sculpts. All too often, their women wind up having faces that appear flat or pinched. Thankfully, BG Teela avoids these issues, though her expression is perhaps a bit too serene for an incarnation that's supposed to represent her in full warrior mode. This can be largely attributed to the tampo work on her eyes, which has her perpetually looking up. I reckon she's rolling her eyes at how easily her most recent opponent went down? Despite that, it's a good head sculpt, and looks just different enough from the standard Teela head that she can easily pass as a separate character.

Articulation is mostly the same as the standard females that preceded her, aside from the new hips. This means no ab hinge and no thigh cuts, unfortunately. I can understand eliminating the ab hinge for aesthetic reasons, but the lack of thigh cuts really hurts. It really limits the posing options, and it's not as if the standard hip articulation looks so terrible that it must be completely hidden or eliminated. It's a strange omission. I'll point out here that the hair is made with an extremely stiff plastic, severely limiting the range of motion. It's a shame that such a long-awaited and awesome looking figure is lacking some key points of articulation.

BG Teela only has a pair of accessories, but they are cool ones. She has a sword and a ray gun, both of which she uses in the source comic. They're well sculpted and true to the source material, but I find I prefer to outfit her with a pair of the swords that came with Point Dread Teela, so you'll see her with those in a few of the photos. I'm not sure what else would have been appropriate to include here, but it does feel like one more accessory could have really put her over the top. I've seen some griping about the lack of paint apps on the gun, but it's true to its appearance in the comic, so I can't fault them for that. They did add paint apps to the sword, though, so I can understand some feeling that they should have done so to the gun as well!

Overall, Battleground Teela is a very good figure that would have been great with just a couple of tweaks. That's being completely objective, however; personally, I love the figure! Despite its shortcomings, this is another figure representing the pre-Filmation era of MOTU that I love most, and it's executed pretty well. I imagine I'll have her paired up with Vikor (when I eventually get him!) on the shelf, but she's definitely going be on permanent display wherever she ends up.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Rant Review: Masters of the Universe Classics Oo-Larr, the Jungle He-Man, figure

After a two week break which saw me manage to give myself a concussion, along with plenty of other events, I'm back with the newest Masters of the Universe Classics review! Today we're looking at a figure that was long desired by those of us who love the world and lore we saw in the early MOTU minicomics: Oo-Larr! Of course, to lovers of the early MOTU minicomics, this is just He-Man, but Mattel decided to present him as a separate character. I don't really care how they justified it to themselves, I'm just glad we finally have this figure! It may be difficult for some to understand exactly why so many MOTU fans got so excited about a figure that looks like He-Man just misplaced all the shit he usually carries around. That's understandable, so here's a quick crash course.

The image above is the first appearance of He-Man in any story-based media. For those of us who were interested in MOTU before Filmation began producing their animated series based on the toyline, He-Man was a barbarian who left his jungle home to defend Eternia against the evil forces who sought to impose their will upon it, Skeletor foremost among them. He rescued the Sorceress, referred to as the Goddess in some of the early comics, from a monster that seemed moments away from devouring her. The Sorceress gave He-Man armor and weapons to aid him in his struggle against the forces of evil, and the endless war between He-Man and Skeletor commenced. Even when DC introduced the Prince Adam secret identity a bit later, this was still a much darker and hard-edged world, far removed from the sanitized, toddler-friendly Filmation series. (Not that I'm knocking the show, as I enjoyed it when I was a kid. I just always liked the early comics a hell of a lot more!) 

With that in mind, this is a very important version of the He-Man character to have as an action figure. Once Mattel released a head for Skeletor which was lovingly sculpted by the Four Horsemen to replicate his appearance in the Alfredo Alcala-illustrated comics, it became even more imperative that we get a He-Man to pair up with him. With the release of this figure, a longtime need for pre-Filmation MOTU fans was finally filled. Thankfully, this long-awaited figure meets expectations. The body is the same basic body we've seen many times before, of course, with a few new parts to properly capture this version of the character. The head sculpt is pure Alcala, and I'll definitely be seeking out an extra so it can be the head for my default He-Man in my MOTUC display. The facial features and longer hair perfectly capture the character's look in these early comics. Truly excellent work by the Four Horsemen here. 

Articulation is standard for the line, although it is worth noting that the head's longer hair slightly interferes with its range of motion. The ankles on my figure are extraordinarily tight, and feel as if they might break when I move them for posing. Loose ankles are bad, but ankles this tight aren't good, either. Mattel seems to really struggle to find that happy medium. 

He-Man shines once again when it comes to his accessories. He includes the spear seen in the original minicomic, a sword that appears to be the energy blade Skeletor often uses in the early minicomics, and a very cool alternate head sculpt for He-Man! This head sculpt more closely resembles that of the vintage He-Man figures', and looks much better than the standard MOTUC He-Man head. While I like the Alcala-style head more, this vintage toy-inspired head is what the MOTUC He-Man head sculpt should have been in the first place. It's a shame that these two excellent head sculpts are somewhat tough to get! The one big omission that I think really should have been included is a power sword in the Alcala style. While Mattel did eventually release one, it was as an accessory with a (relatively undesirable) figure whose story is set in the future, and it would have made much more sense to include it here.

This "first appearance" He-Man figure has been a very long time coming. Thankfully, he's every bit as cool as I had hoped. The Four Horsemen outdid themselves on both head sculpts, and while the figure may look a bit plain compared to some of the others in the line, it's an extremely important figure. This is the He-Man that introduced the world to Masters of the Universe, and it's very nice to see him take his place in the toy line at long last. Now they just need to make a full-on Alcala He-Man, using this head sculpt, with the boot knife! 
An alternate shot of the struggle between He-Man and Beast Man:

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Rant Review: Mattel Halo Master Chief and Ghost with Elite Officer

(Note: I realized after the fact that I posted this before it was completed, hence the lack of photos. this was the day I got the concussion, so cut me some slack. ;) The written part of the review is done, so I'll leave it up since it's already posted, and photos will be added soon.)

I've slacked off a great deal on buying action figures the past few years-- a combination of decreasing space in my home and rising costs of toys to often ridiculous levels led to this-- so, despite my love of the Halo franchise, I didn't pounce on Mattel's new line of Halo toys right off the bat. I planned to pick up a Master Chief figure, at the very least, but I figured I could stand to wait for a better deal than the $20 retail price. Thanks to Amazon.com, I finally picked up a couple! Today, we'll be looking at the Master Chief and the Ghost vehicle, which comes packaged with an Elite Officer.

The Master Chief and Elite Officer are sculpted quite well, with some nice detailing on the armor. The EO has a suitably angry expression on his face. The detail isn't on the same level as you'll find on many other adult-oriented lines, however, including the offerings from former Halo license holder McFarlane Toys. These are still very good looking figures, though. The MC stands about six inches tall, as Mattel has chosen to eschew the five inch scale McFarlane went with. This is a big positive, in my opinion. That said, MC may seem a bit on the small side next to your superhero figures, considering he's supposed to be a big dude wearing armor that makes him even larger. The EO is bigger, and actually looks pretty good next to other lines in this scale. If anything, I think he may be a bit too large in relation to the MC.

The plastic quality is also good; this has been an issue for many Mattel lines in the past, but I had no problems here. All of the armor pieces apart from the MC's helmet are removable, and can be put on and removed without too much trouble. A few of the pieces move around a bit when you're posing the figure, but it's not much of a hassle to put them back in place, and they stay put as long as you're not messing with it. That applies to the MC, anyway. Several pieces of the EO's armor is much more prone to falling off if you try to move the figure. Or breath near it. Or look at it. Or think about it too hard! (More on that later.)

Other accessories for the MC include an assault rifle, plasma sword, and an alternate hand designed to hold the plasma sword. A build-a-figure piece for an alpha crawler is also included. The weapons have sculpts that are good, but not great, and they have a couple of issues. The rifle includes a pin to attach it to MC's back when he's not holding it, which is a nice move. The hole to attach it to the pin goes all the way through the gun, however, which is not. It's also pretty difficult for the figure to hold the rifle in a manner that looks right, owing both to the gun's design and the clunky armor limiting the range of motion in the arms somewhat. As for the plasma sword, it's made of a softer plastic which is prone to bending, and there are a couple of bits of plastic along its length designed to hold the blades in alignment. It's a bit of an eyesore, but I'm sure safety regulations meant that Mattel couldn't just use a very stiff plastic for the sword to avoid this issue. (This is an issue that amply displays the differences between a collector-focused lines and one mass-produced and designed to be kid-friendly.) The EO includes a carbine rifle, which also has the pinhole all the way through it.

The MC's articulation is excellent, with a total of thirty points of articulation, as boasted on the packaging. The EO gets slightly less, but is still amply articulated. As I mentioned previously, MC's range of motion is hampered a bit when he's fully armored up, but not too bad. The EO fares slightly better here, but again, the armor is likely to give you a good deal more trouble during posing. (Seriously, more on that later. Promise.)

The figures don't fare so well in the paint department. Mattel has seriously cut back on paint apps in the past few years, to the detriment of many of their products. (See last year's Batman v Superman line for clear evidence of good sculpts ruined by terrible paint apps.) They've done the same here, but thankfully, the designs of these figures means that they don't suffer much because of it. A decrease in the quality of paint apps affects faces most of all, and MC's face isn't visible, and the EO looks fine with just the two dabs of paint for his eyes. I plan to do some drybrushing over both figures to bring out the sculpted details, but they actually look pretty decent from a paint standpoint right out of the box.

This brings us to the elephant in the room: the Ghost. It's quite large, and sculpted quite well. The MC can be sat on it pretty easily, and the scale is good. The EO, on the other hand, doesn't fit on it well at all. the biggest issue is that he's just too damn big. (As I mentioned earlier, he's a bit to large in relation to the MC, and this is another sign that the Elites in this line are larger than they should be. Or that everyone and everything else is smaller than they should be; take your pick.) Once you remove his butt armor and finagle him around on the seat, trying to get him to fit, you'll notice several things:
1. His legs are far too long for his feet to rest on the footrests.
2. His arms are far too long for him to grasp the controls in any way that looks remotely natural.
3. His goddamn arm and leg armor will pop off any time you make the slightest adjustment!
This last point is what has me planning to apply some gorilla glue to this bastard as soon as I'm done typing this review. The tiny forearm pieces, in particular, fell off constantly, prompting me to finally just remove them altogether until I had the figure in a reasonably stable position on the ghost. The thigh armor was also a big problem, but nowhere near on the same level. I'm sure that removable pieces of armor sounded like a fun feature, but in practice, it's mostly a source of frustration. I pity any child who gets this toy and is actually interested in keeping the armor in place while they play with it. (Hopefully this hypothetical kid has some super glue!)  Once you get the EO on it in a somewhat decent looking pose, you'll probably want to just leave him on there to avoid having to go through the whole hassle again. After I spent hours (actually just a few minutes, but very long minutes) wrestling the EO around on the seat like he was riding a mechanical bull, flinging armor aside as it was shed like so much dead skin, and muttering prayers to Cthulhu to aid me in my predicament, that is most certainly my plan.

Once you get the bastard on the ghost and attach it to the included base-- which is design to look like the energy trails the vehicle emits while it's flying, a very nice touch-- it looks pretty great. Despite the relatively minor frustration, it was well worth the fourteen bucks I paid for it, and I hope Mattel makes a Warthog in this scale soon! (They already have one for those twelve inch figures, so it has to be just a matter of time, surely?) Even with a few shortcomings, these are some good looking and very fun figures, and I highly recommend them to Halo fans, especially if you can find them for less than the retail price! (Here's a hint: go check Amazon.com now! They're $15 each right now!)

Rant Review: DC Multiverse Batman- The Dark Knight Returns Joker figure

(I have a concussion as I type this, so you'll have to forgive any odd phrasing that may pop up in the course of this review. If anything, it'll probably just amount to some typos I don't catch.)

As someone who was an avid collector of Mattel's DC Superheroes and DC Universe Classics lines, I've bought surprisingly few of their DC action figures in the last several years. This is due to several factors, chief among them the rising prices and increasingly poor execution of many of their products. Let's face it, while $20 has become a pretty standard price for a mass market figure in the six-ish inch scale, it's still a nice chunk of cash for one toy. That alone would make me more selective, as I don't have a whole hell of a lot of disposable income, but couple it with Mattel's cheapness compromising more and more of their figures, and there just haven't been many of them that I felt warranted their bloated price tags. There have been quite a few that I wanted based on prototype photos, but any desire I had to own them dissipated once I saw the actual figures in person. It's a disappointing turn of events, but hey, at least it saved me money!

Obviously, there have been a few exceptions. The small subset of figures based on the seminal Batman story The Dark Knight Returns, spread throughout their Batman Legacy and DC Multiverse lines over the years, are among them. Mattel addressed the one glaring whole in that set with the release of the Joker as he appeared in that story.

The sculpt is very good overall, and both heads are excellent. Whichever head you choose to display him with, the Joker looks as if he stepped right off the printed page. One head has a calm expression, while the other captures the Joker at his maniacal best, with a removable batarang in his right eye, as seen in his climactic battle with the Dark Knight in book three of the story. His right hand is sculpted to hold the gun perfectly, but also holds the knife with no issues. Perhaps owing to the lack of paint apps on most of the figure, the heads feature much better attention to paint detail than most of Mattel's figures these days. Paint apps are clean and precise, with a nice wash over the skin that really captures its appearance in the source comic. The open-mouthed head has a gloss coat over the interior of the mouth to lend it a wet appearance. There is also a well done wash on the hair to bring out the sculpted details. The paint apps on the rest of the figure are basic, but overall, this is fairly impressive work for a mass market toy.

Articulation is more or less the standard for this line. The Joker has ball joints at the head, shoulders, and hips, swivel & hinge joints at the elbows and knees, swivels at the waist, wrists, and upper thighs, and hinges at each ankle. The lack of bicep swivels is made up for by the swivel/hinge elbows, and the missing abdominal hinge isn't an issue, since the suit coat would greatly hinder its movement anyway. The hips are the MOTUC style joints, which I prefer to the normal Mattel hip articulation. They are rather unsightly, but the long coat covers them without impeding their range of motion much. While the articulation is adequate, and you can get some very cool poses, it is a bit outdated; swivel & hinge wrists should be standard by now, along with double knee joints. Hasbro has been implementing these points of articulation on most of its Marvel figures for years, and Toy Biz before them, so it's frustrating that we DC figure collectors are still getting figures that omit them.

The Joker includes the previously mentioned alternate head, gun, and knife, along with a torso for the King Shark build-a-figure. Even if you don't give a damn about the BAF, it's still a solid set of accessories, and it's particularly nice to see Mattel including alternate heads on some of their mass market figures. Hopefully we'll see this more often going forward.

Despite a few mostly minor flaws, this is a great figure, and a real standout in Mattel's recent DC offerings. This Joker figure is a fantastic addition to anyone's collection, and is an absolute must for anyone who already has some of the previous DKR figures. He's a bit too large to work scale-wise with most of the DCUC figures, but he scales nicely with Mattel's DKR figures, which tend to run larger. Walmart currently has the price of DCM figures cut to $16, so that's the place to look if you want one. I suggest grabbing one now if you have any interest, as the price is likely to rise once the supply dries up. That's it for today! Barring any unforeseen delays, the regularly scheduled MOTUC review should return next Tuesday! For now, scroll down for more photos!